Sometimes minimalism is art, but here less is less.




As the title implies, Kuiper’s first novel is composed entirely of notes a mother and daughter leave for each other on the refrigerator door.

Mom is a busy obstetrician recently separated from her husband. Claire is her 15-year-old daughter. Despite a few random complaints, mostly about needing money to buy the lists of items Mom requests, Claire comes across from the beginning as too good to be true—independent yet loving and responsible. Mom comes across as very absentee and whiny. Her lack of a cell phone, a complaint of Claire’s, is a little odd, especially given her frequent notes about being called to an emergency delivery. Then notes back and forth about doctor appointments and mammograms start to appear. Around the same time, Mom starts leaving messages about a boy named Michael having called for Claire. A note refers to the lump Mom has in her breast. Soon she and Claire are arranging by note for Claire to accompany Mom to the lumpectomy. Claire grocery shops and cooks for Mom. Mom continues to work. Claire worries about Mom but is also dating Michael, whom Mom never gets around to meeting. Claire and Mom bicker over Michael and Claire briefly goes to stay with Dad. Mom admits she has cancer. Michael and Claire break up, get back together, break up again. Claire realizes how serious Mom’s condition is. Claire and Dad get Mom a wig for her chemo but Mom freaks out. Mom leaves petulant notes and then apologizes. Claire gets a little angry and then apologizes. Basically, the novel progresses from nice-normal to nice-sad to nice-supersad as Mom’s health deteriorates. Eventually, Claire is leaving notes to say she is in the backyard, and Mom’s notes say she’s resting. Claire leaves two last notes after Mom has died to say how much she loved Mom and to tell her about her new boyfriend James. All of which makes for an easy read for those looking for sad-lite.

Sometimes minimalism is art, but here less is less.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-137049-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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